Feel Broken Inside? It’s Time to Heal
Feeling broken inside requires healing, not fixing.
Posted December 15, 2022 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch
- Being human involves pain and struggle.
- Understanding your struggles is essential to healing.
- You can heal by taking in caring from others and developing compassionate self-awareness.
Being human is a tough gig. Without exception, it involves pain and struggle. Still, everyone’s hurdles are not equal. Some face such difficulties throughout their childhood that they come to believe that there is something inherently wrong with them—that they are essentially flawed. I would say it’s hard to shake this belief, but that implies that the problem lies in their thinking. Rather, it goes much deeper: It is a sense that they carry in their very being that they are inadequate, unlovable, unworthy, and wholly deficient (or something in that realm).
This can happen in many ways, such as when a child is physically abused, sexually abused, verbally assaulted, or neglected. It can even happen when they simply don’t receive emotionally attuned validation, leaving them to feel not seen, understood, or deeply cared about. If this has been your experience, it means that your sense of being flawed or broken is a part of the fabric of who you are.
Understanding Your Struggles
You can’t just change your thinking because you have taken in the message of being inadequate or flawed on many different levels. To understand this better, consider five basic domains of awareness: sensations, thoughts, emotions, actions, and mentalizing—or, STEAM.
Sensations: When a child’s physical or emotional needs are not met, they feel unsafe in the world on a physical level. Their nervous system might often go into fight-or-flight, which might be experienced as muscle tension, trembling, or increased heart rate. Or, if they feel trapped, they might have a freeze response, which can leave them depleted of energy and feeling unable to move. Sadly, these responses can become a baseline of functioning that continues into adulthood.
Emotions: The fight-or-flight response is often felt emotionally as anxiety, fear, or anger. The freeze reaction is often experienced emotionally as being numb or disconnected.
Actions: When people with this history feel insecure or unsafe, they will often try to find safety or to protect themselves. Given that the root of their feeling unsafe is in early experiences from others, especially caregivers, they often try to gain a sense of safety by attempting to prevent further rejection or abandonment. They might try to earn acceptance and caring by being especially nice, or earning money or prestige. In personal relationships, some ways they might react to rejection or feared rejection by being overly affectionate, trying to maintain almost constant contact, or with jealousy.
Mentalizing: This jargony word means intellectually understanding and emotionally connecting with the reasons someone acts in particular ways. When you mentalize someone (another person or yourself), you can appreciate their thoughts, emotions, fantasies, fears, and whatever else might be going on for them. You can mentalize by reflecting on your sensations, thoughts, emotions, and actions. By doing this, you can gain appreciation and empathy for your struggles with feeling flawed. This will enable you to gain compassionate self-awareness—that is, self-awareness of your struggles from a compassionate perspective.
Hopefully, this will lead you to realize that the message you have absorbed about being essentially flawed is simply wrong. And you will hopefully also will realize this truth: You are worthy and lovable. No matter how real your inadequacy may feel, you were taught to hold this incorrect and painful message as truth.
Do whatever it takes to begin to question your experience of being essentially flawed. Use self-help materials. Get therapy. Listen to those who love you and to those who respect you. Listen to those who throw into question your whole experience of being wrong or bad or not okay. Practice seeing that harsh inner critic for what it is, a fearful, angry, and perhaps despairing voice crying out in pain. Practice compassionate self-awareness, which can help you approach yourself with gentle honesty, understanding, and caring.
You are okay in the deepest, most profoundly accepting and loving sense of the word. It’s time to learn and absorb this truth. It’s time for you to heal.
To help you on this journey, I am sharing a poem I wrote for someone I love who is struggling with this very issue. It is entitled Imperfectly Perfect.You can read it and also watch me read it here.
We are all imperfect.
But none broken.
You may feel down to your bones
deep in your soul
but you are not
You are not a toaster or
A wrench or a car
To be rated
Superior or inferior.
To break from use
or imperfect parts
or faulty assembly.
You are a person,
A sentient being.
Your body can break.
Even your nose.
But you, your inherent
It can ache
Or be nauseatingly filled with pain.
You can hurt to your core.
But despite how it feels,
You are not broken,
Pain cannot be fixed.
Your being requires
A quickening of healing
for the shards of brokenness you feel
piercing your very being,
but that being,
Your authentic self,
It is whole—
Perhaps excruciatingly so,
But still whole
And as lovable as the setting sun
Over a turbulent ocean filled with awe-inspiring life.